UGC Requests Varsities to Provide IPR as an Elective Course

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This piece is to bring to your attention a notice published by the UGC, requesting universities and affiliated colleges to provide Intellectual Property Rights as a part of their elective system. Electives are courses which students can elect for, as opposed to mandatory courses.

The notice is signed by the UGC Secretary Jaspal S Sandhu and addressed to all vice chancellors.
I am reproducing the text of the notice for your convenience over here.

“ Creations of mind such as inventions, designs for industrial articles, literary, artistic work, symbols, names and images etc. are protected by lntellectual Property rights (lPR). Intellectual Property Rights (lPR) is normally of two types: Industrial Property Rights and Copyright. The importance of IPR was first recognized in Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Work (1886). lPRs should be protected to encourage the creator and also striking a balance between the innovators and public interest by creating an awareness where creativity can flourish.
Keeping in view the importance of IPR which recognizes the work of the creator, you are requested to devise, through academic council, inclusion of the IPR as a generic elective subject under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) in your esteemed university and the affiliated colleges.”

It is pertinent to note that IPR is not listed in the compulsory courses in the Bar Council Rules. So, even in law schools, IPR is not a compulsory subject. But universities can, at their discretion, choose to make it a mandatory course in addition to the compulsory courses listed in the Bar Council of India Rules.

One could see this letter as a direct extension of the National Intellectual Property Rights Policy.

Under Objective I: “IPR Awareness: Outreach and Promotion”
“1.5. Create suitable course materials for:
1.5.1. Educational institutions at all levels to emphasize the importance of IP rights;
1.5.2. Online and distance learning programs for all categories of users;
1.5.3. Including IPRs in school curriculum at appropriate level.”

Under Objective II: “Generation of IPRs”
“2.22. Introduce IPRs as part of academic curriculum in educational institutions, especially universities, law and technical institutions;”

Under Objective VII: “Human Capital Development”
“7.5. Strengthen existing and create new IPR cells and technology development and management units in NIDs, NIFTs, Agricultural Universities, Technology and Management Institutes and centres of skill development;”

Though it may be a case of reading too much into the text of the letter, it does come across as emphasizing the creation of “IP” (rather than just nurturing creativity) a bit more than may be optimal.

Prof. Basheer has touched upon this as a larger issue with the National IPR Policy here. In short, he explains how the policy is problematic because it envisages aggressive creation of protected IP as a tool to further creativity. He, inter alia, argues that the IP policy should be within the larger domain of innovation and not the other way around, as an improper IP regime can stilt creativity as well.

Therefore, one hopes that Universities don’t take this letter to presuppose that aggressive IP protection will necessarily spur creativity. While the end goal of creativity is certainly laudable, given the deficit of it in our educational institutions, if there is an assumption that enhanced IP rights are the only way to enhance innovation/creativity, this would surely be problematic.

In conclusion, as someone who is writing for raising awareness about Intellectual Property law, it is quite heartening to see a push for more awareness about IP, however, I do hope it remains within the larger innovation context. The concerns I have discussed above have been pre-existing concerns and a strict reading of the letter doesn’t necessarily point towards these concerns. The above discussion was only a word of caution regarding the existing IP discourse. While the contents of the letter are definitely positive, it remains to be seen to what extent and in what manner varsities will actually act upon the UGC prodding.

Image from here.


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1 thought on “UGC Requests Varsities to Provide IPR as an Elective Course”

  1. Excellent. I used to conduct a three days’ capsule on IPRs in agriculture R&D for public sector agriculture research and education institutions. It used to start with my introductory lecture on ‘How ICAR has moved over time?’; and my concluding lecture on third day on ‘Access and benefit sharing (about knowledge, resources and materials) in the public sector agriculture research ecosystem’. My participants knew fully well that, whether one may like it or not, technology transfer will continue to take place (at least) in sectors like agriculture and forestry without much consideration for IP protection. Understandably, they used to be quite bubbly and non-serious from the Day I and making them involved in the program was a big challenge. They also argued that patent/IPR laws in India are actually not favourable to agriculture scientists. This challenge had to be met through content of the program. A penultimate lecture was on ”management of intellectual assets in public research institutes”, I used to call this as my ‘trump card’. This was designed to finish the program in a manner that at least the resource persons remain encouraged for subsequent programs. This lecture used to be basically telling about creating transparent and accountable public systems (and we knew that as ‘individuals’ we do not appreciate transparency and accountability). The other highlight of the program was one same question from me to the participants – before the beginning of the program, and at the end of the program. The question was— IPRs is: a) a necessary evil; b) a necessary good; c) absolutely necessary; and d) absolutely unnecessary. The participants had to chose one answer. Believe me, the mode frequency at the beginning of the program used to invariably be a). At the end of the program, the mode frequency used to shift to either b) or c). I used to call myself the happiest person on the earth in programs when the mode frequency used to shift to c). The last shot from me used to be to convince the participants that it is no use wasting time in arguing that IPR (or our law) is ‘good’ or bad’; even the adjective ‘absolutely’ is not required. All over the world, laws and policies are made for reasons political than scientific. So, no use wasting time. ‘Let us resolve to have the best research/IP practices in our institutes’. You have rightly concluded, the ‘the larger innovation context’ is more important. A word of caution is “absolutely necessary”. My compliments to you and Shamnad Basheer.

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